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Posted by Stephanie on May 22, 2023

When you need to transport or store items in your warehouse or distribution center, two solutions that you have access to include skids and pallets. While some companies consider pallets and skids to be the same thing, they are often used for different applications. The skids that are placed in a warehouse are typically implemented as the permanent foundation for stacks of storage.

While skids offer numerous advantages, pallets are capable of being used for storage and transportation purposes. Before you buy skids or pallets for your facility, you should understand what these items are and how they can help you transform your warehouse.

Pallets vs. Skids: What’s the Difference?

While pallets and skids offer similar functionality, they are used for different types of applications. Pallets are horizontal platforms that are outfitted with a bottom deck that offers stability when moving or storing goods. The bottom deck ensures that front loaders, forklifts, jacks, and similar pieces of equipment can lift them.

Pallets are often used as the base for transporting, assembling, and handling products and materials. Even though the majority of pallets are built with wood, they may also be constructed with metal, plastic, recycled materials, and cardboard. If you select pallets for your facility, you’ll benefit from better stability, versatility, and functionality. It’s easy for forklifts and pallet jacks to move pallets. They are also durable enough to withstand many different types of palletized products.

When looking specifically at skids, they don’t come with bottom deck boards, which means that they are unable to provide you with the stability required to transport palletized goods. Even though you can boost the stability of skids by selecting the right type of wood and fastener, they’ll never provide the amount of stability that you receive from a pallet. Keep in mind that skids can’t be unloaded or loaded with a forklift without placing a certain amount of torque on the skid, which could cause the skid to break.

If you intend to use skids, they are suitable as a permanent foundation that you can place under heavy machinery. If you use a skid for storage, you can pull it into the correct position, which isn’t possible with a pallet.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Using Pallets

Pallets offer many benefits that aren’t available when using skids, the primary of which include:

  • Pallets provide you with better efficiency in your supply chain
  • These items are better when transporting heavy loads
  • They are more hygienic when compared to wooden skids

Neither pallets or skids are great for the environment. However, a large percentage of wood pallet manufacturers are searching for ways to improve sustainability. If you’re comparing the costs of skids and pallets, skids are usually more affordable than pallets. You can expect to pay around $30-$60 for skids. On the other hand, pallets oftentimes cost around $100-$400 depending on the weight capacity you require.

Keep in mind that there are different types of pallets for you to consider, which include two-way and four-way pallets. Every wooden pallet is designed to be either a two-way or four-way pallet. Stringer pallets will come with openings on two of the four sides. A forklift’s tines can enter these openings. If a hand truck or forklift can only access a pallet on two sides, it’s considered a two-way pallet.

When a pallet is outfitted with notched stringers, forklift tines can enter on every side of the pallet, which makes it a four-way pallet. You can also obtain block pallets that forego the use of stringers for blocks that provide additional support to the deck. Every block pallet is a four-way pallet.

You can use both of these pallet types in many different commercial and manufacturing applications. The main reason why you would select one pallet type over another is because of how you expect the pallet to be handled.

The layout of your facility could make one pallet type better than another. In the event that you don’t have much space left in your warehouse, a four-way pallet is highly recommended since palletized products will be able to be moved in your facility in a more efficient manner. Some additional considerations to keep in mind include:

  • Certain kinds of manufacturing automation only accommodate four-way pallets
  • Forklifts require more space to effectively maneuver to the right position around a two-way pallet
  • Two-way pallets are more affordable than the alternative

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Using Skids

If you’re thinking about using storage skids in your warehouse, the main benefits you’ll gain access to include:

  • Cost-effective storage solution
  • High weight capacity
  • Less impact on the environment than plastic pallets

When you’re comparing wooden skids with plastic pallets, wooden skids are much more affordable. You can expect to pay around three times more to buy a plastic pallet. These pallets can only withstand loads of up to 1,500 pounds. In comparison, wooden skids are capable of handling loads that reach as high as 3,000 pounds. Plastic pallets are most commonly used in the pharmaceutical and food and beverage industries. Wooden skids aren’t too harmful to the environment. Compared to other materials, wooden skids have a much smaller carbon footprint.

How to Choose the Right Option for Your Needs

If you’re looking to stack products for loading, unloading, or storage purposes, you’ll likely want to use a pallet unless cost is a main concern of yours. While skids were once a popular choice when storing all types of products, the introduction of more durable pallets to the market resulted in skids being phased out once forklifts became commonplace in warehouses and distribution centers.

If you have a relatively small warehouse that doesn’t use forklifts that often, skids may be the right option for you. Skids are relatively easy to move and often come with high weight capacities. If you intend to drag your cargo, a skid would be preferable. When lifting your cargo with a forklift, you’ll need to use pallets. Today, the majority of warehouses use pallets exclusively.

Before making a final decision, it’s important that you choose the right material and design for your needs. As mentioned previously, a lack of space in your warehouse means that a four-way pallet would be your best option. Being able to access the pallet from all sides with a forklift ensures that maneuverability isn’t an issue.

Whether you use pallets or skids, you’ll need to perform proper packing and securing when storing or transporting any items. When you place big loads onto pallets or skids, they should be secured with plastic stretch wrapping, which is more effective than fiberglass or metal banding. Because of the stretching capabilities of this wrapping, it can form itself around all different shapes and sizes of pallet loads.

The Future of Skids and Pallets in Material Handling and Transportation

Even though pallets have been widely adopted by most warehouses and distribution centers, skids will continue to have their place in warehouses depending on the application. The future of these items is mainly centered around the switch from wood to plastic. Over the past few years, the price of lumber has increased substantially, which has resulted in many manufacturers switching over to plastic. These pallets are appealing because they’re lightweight, hygienic, and more durable when compared to wood pallets.

Even though many people consider plastic pallets to be less sustainable than wood pallets, plastic ones have the potential to be more sustainable depending on how they are used and disposed of. Most plastic pallets are capable of being used for up to 10 years before needing to be replaced. These pallets can also be recycled, which means that they won’t go to the landfill.

Plastic pallets are comprised of polypropylene molding, which is easy to sanitize or pressure wash in the event that a hazardous spill occurs. In comparison, wood is a more porous material, which means that many contaminants are trapped.

A lumber shortage has been in place since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. While shortages have eased somewhat as the supply chain has improved, obtaining plastic is simpler and more affordable at the moment.

The Environmental Impact of Pallets and Skids

Pallets and skids play a crucial role in material handling and logistics. However, their environmental impact is a growing concern as industries strive to become more sustainable. Understanding the eco-friendliness of these load platforms is essential for businesses looking to reduce their carbon footprint.

Wooden Pallets: Wooden pallets have been the traditional choice for decades. While they are recyclable and made from a renewable resource, namely wood, their production process can lead to deforestation and energy consumption. To mitigate these concerns, the pallet industry increasingly focuses on sustainable sourcing practices and wood recycling. Learn more about sustainable pallet racking systems.

Plastic Pallets: Plastic pallets are gaining popularity due to their durability and resistance to moisture and pests. However, they are typically made from non-renewable petroleum-based materials. On the positive side, plastic pallets have a longer lifespan and can be recycled, reducing the need for frequent replacements.

Recycling and Reuse: Both wooden and plastic pallets can be recycled or repaired, extending their useful life and reducing waste. Some companies have embraced circular economy principles, refurbishing and reusing pallets to minimize their environmental impact.

Choosing Sustainable Materials: Companies looking to minimize their environmental footprint should explore alternative materials, such as pallets made from recycled plastics or composites. These options offer the durability of plastic with a reduced environmental impact.

In conclusion, the environmental impact of pallets and skids depends on various factors, including material choice, sourcing, and end-of-life practices. As sustainability becomes increasingly important, businesses must weigh these factors carefully when selecting their preferred load platform.

Size and Weight Variations in Pallets and Skids

Pallets and skids come in various sizes and weight capacities, making them versatile solutions for different industries and applications. Understanding the variations in dimensions and load-bearing capacities is crucial for businesses to choose the right platform for their needs.

Standard Pallet Sizes: Standard pallet sizes are commonly used in various industries. The 48-inch by 40-inch pallet is the most prevalent size, widely accepted in North America. Other regions may have their standard sizes, so businesses with international operations should consider these variations. Explore different types of pallet racking systems.

Weight Capacities: Pallets and skids are designed to carry different weight loads. Standard pallets typically have weight capacities ranging from 2,000 to 4,000 pounds, while heavy-duty pallets can support even more substantial loads. Skids, due to their simplified design, may have slightly lower weight capacities.

Custom Sizes: Some industries require specialized sizes to accommodate unique products or machinery. Custom pallet and skid manufacturers can design load platforms tailored to specific dimensions and weight requirements.

Stacking Considerations: The choice between pallets and skids should also consider how items will be stacked. With their bottom deck, pallets provide more stability when things need to be stacked vertically. Skids, without a bottom tier, may be preferable when goods need to rest directly on the ground or another surface.

In summary, pallets and skids’ diversity in size and weight capacity allows businesses to select the most suitable platform for their logistics and storage needs. Understanding these variations ensures efficient and safe material handling.

Bundled Pallet Rack Beams

Safety Considerations When Using Pallets and Skids

Safety is paramount in any industrial or warehouse setting, and it’s no different when using pallets and skids. Proper handling and securing of loads on these platforms are essential to prevent accidents, injuries, and damage to goods.

Proper Stacking: It’s crucial to distribute the weight evenly when stacking items on pallets or skids. This prevents things from becoming unstable and potentially toppling during transport or storage. Overloading a pallet or skid can lead to structural failure.

Securing Loads: Loads should be appropriately connected to the pallet or skid to prevent shifting during transit. Standard methods include plastic stretch wrapping, banding, or using load-securing accessories like straps or corner protectors. Learn about the benefits of pallet jack ramps.

Forklift Safety: Operators should be trained in safe handling procedures when using forklifts or other handling equipment. Improper forklift operation can lead to accidents, injuries, and damage to pallets or skids.

Storage Considerations: Pallets and skids should be stored to prevent them from becoming damaged or compromised. This includes keeping them from moisture, pests, and excessive heat or cold.

Inspection and Maintenance: Regular review of pallets and skids is essential to identify any damage or wear. Damaged platforms should be repaired or replaced promptly to avoid accidents.

By prioritizing safety measures and providing training for employees, businesses can ensure that using pallets and skids is efficient and safe.

Industry Trends in Pallet and Skid Design

The pallet and skid industry is continually evolving to meet the changing needs of businesses and adapt to technological advancements. Staying informed about the latest trends can help companies decide when selecting these load platforms.

Automation Integration: Automation in warehouses and distribution centers is on the rise. Pallet and skid designs are being adapted to work seamlessly with automated systems, such as conveyor belts and robotic handling equipment.

Digital Tracking and RFID: Pallets equipped with RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) tags or other tracking technologies enable real-time monitoring of goods in transit. This enhances supply chain visibility and reduces the risk of lost or misplaced shipments.

Sustainable Materials: The demand for environmentally friendly pallet and skid options is growing. Manufacturers are exploring sustainable materials, such as recycled plastics or composite materials, to create eco-friendly load platforms.

Customization and Modularity: Businesses increasingly seek load platforms customized to their needs. Modular pallet and skid designs allow flexibility in adapting to changing product dimensions or handling requirements.

Safety Innovations: Pallet and skid manufacturers are developing safety features, such as anti-slip surfaces and impact-resistant materials, to reduce the risk of accidents and product damage.

As businesses embrace these trends, they can improve efficiency, reduce environmental impact, and enhance overall logistics and material handling processes.

Case Studies: Pallet and Skid Implementation Success Stories

Real-world examples and case studies illustrate how businesses successfully implement pallets and skids. These stories provide practical insights into the benefits and challenges of using these load platforms.

Automotive Industry: A major automotive manufacturer improved efficiency by adopting custom-designed pallets that perfectly accommodate various automobile components. This reduced handling time and minimized the risk of damage during transit.

Food and Beverage Sector: A food distribution company improved hygiene and product safety by switching to plastic pallets. These pallets were easier to clean and less susceptible to moisture or pest contamination.

Retail Logistics: A retail chain optimized its supply chain by incorporating RFID-enabled pallets. This allowed for real-time inventory tracking, reducing stockouts and improving overall inventory management.

Manufacturing Efficiency: A manufacturing plant streamlined its operations by implementing skids as the foundation for heavy machinery. Skids provided stability and mobility, allowing for easy reconfiguration of the production floor.

Eco-Friendly Initiatives: A sustainability-focused company reduced its environmental impact by choosing pallets made from recycled materials. This decision aligned with its commitment to eco-friendly practices.

These case studies highlight pallets and skids’ diverse applications and advantages across different industries. They serve as valuable references for businesses considering similar implementations.

Cost-Benefit Analysis: Pallets vs. Skids

Making an informed decision between pallets and skids often involves a cost-benefit analysis. This analysis considers initial costs, maintenance expenses, and long-term durability to determine which option offers the best value for a business.

Initial Costs: Skids are generally more affordable than pallets due to their straightforward design. However, businesses should consider whether the reduced cost justifies any limitations in functionality.

Maintenance Expenses: Pallets may have higher initial costs but can provide long-term cost savings by offering better stability and durability. Frequent replacements of skids due to wear and tear can add up over time.

Long-Term Durability: Pallets, primarily made from durable materials like plastic or composite, tend to have longer lifespans than skids. This longevity can translate to reduced replacement costs.

Functionality: Consider how the chosen platform meets specific logistical and handling needs. Pallets may be more suitable for applications requiring frequent forklift handling, while skids excel in drag-and-drop scenarios.

Industry Standards: Some industries have standardized on either pallets or skids due to safety or compatibility requirements. Compliance with industry standards is essential.

By conducting a thorough cost-benefit analysis, businesses can determine whether pallets or skids offer the best overall value for their specific operational requirements and budget constraints.

The Future of Pallets and Skids in Material Handling and Transportation

The future of pallets and skids is marked by innovation and adaptation to meet evolving logistics and transportation needs. Understanding where these load platforms are heading can help businesses prepare for upcoming changes in the industry.

Shift to Plastic: As mentioned earlier, plastic pallets are gaining ground due to their durability and sustainability. This trend will continue as plastic pallets become more cost-effective and environmentally friendly.

Digital Integration: Pallets and skids with sensors and tracking technology will become more prevalent. Real-time data on the location and condition of goods will enhance supply chain visibility.

Customization and Modular Design: Load platforms easily customized or adjusted to fit various product sizes and handling methods will become increasingly important in a dynamic logistics landscape.

Automation and Robotics: Pallets and skids will continue to evolve to work seamlessly with automated systems, reducing labor costs and improving efficiency.

Sustainability Focus: The industry will increasingly emphasize sustainable materials and practices, driven by both environmental concerns and regulatory requirements.

By staying informed about these future developments, businesses can adapt their material handling strategies to remain competitive and environmentally responsible.

Conclusion

Skids and pallets are two different items that can be used for many of the same applications. Pallets have a bottom deck that provides more support and accommodates forklifts. While skids have the ability to store many different types of items, these items are unable to be transported by forklifts since they lack a bottom deck.

When you’re choosing between these two options, consider which factor is most important to you. If you have a strict budget at the moment, skids tend to be more affordable. They’re also suitable for smaller warehouses. However, pallets are better in most other situations.

Whether you purchase skids or pallets for your warehouse, it’s essential that you take the necessary steps to maintain and secure them. In the event that items aren’t properly secured to the pallet during transportation, they could fall off, which would create a hazardous situation for personnel in your facility.

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